AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County has spent nearly $70,000 in the past month to provide security detail for Judge Julie Kocruek, according to payroll reports, with no apparent end in sight. Since her shooting Nov. 6, Kocurek was protected first by Austin police at the hospital, and then Travis County deputies at her home.
From Dec. 16 through Jan. 23, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office spent $67,890.56 to provide security for the judge-with more than half of the money spent on deputies’ overtime pay. The county says they can’t say how long they will be providing security for Kocurek. It appears the security detail started after Kocurek was released from the hospital in mid-December.
“Investigators absolutely believe the assault was an attempt to murder, an attempt on her life… she was targeted on that attack,” said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo a few days after the shooting.
A person of interest in the case, Chimene Onyeri, is still in the Harris County Jail on an unrelated murder charge. Under a search warrant, APD discovered a woman told the Travis County District Attorney’s Office she observed a conversation between Onyeri and a man about a plan to kill a Travis County district judge before the shooting took place.
County Commissioners have been discussing courthouse security even before the November shooting, but guarding a family at their home is far different from a courthouse with limited access. District 4 Commissioner Gerald Daugherty says, “We can handle the courthouse a lot easier, than say, where’s the judge going to lunch, where is the judge going to vacation? Do you really want to get into that game?” Daugherty is quick to add however that a judge’s safety, any judge, will not be compromised because of cost, “We’re certainly going to take care of her, at least until she gets her feet back on the ground and feels secure enough, and she may never feel secure enough to get about her life.”
District 5 Commissioner Margaret Gomez also vows judges will get the security they need, but explains the complexity of the security issue, “We have to consider cost versus necessity. Right now we are considering all options but we will be sure to continue to protect Judge Kocurek.” Those options include such things as private security firms and high tech devices. There are some 30 judges, civil and criminal, in Travis County and the situation could get very expensive if further incidents arise.
Earlier this month, Kocurek, along with several other judges, met with Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton and District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg to discuss security concerns and how the departments assessed the threat made against the judge.